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The Calorie Paradox: Did Four Rice Chex Make America Fat? (Part II of "There Is No Such Thing As A Calorie")
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May 20, 2013
10:50 pm
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Asclepius:

I've thought for quite a while that the carb timing effect is most likely due to the effect Fmgd mentioned, and which I posted about some time ago: the initial meal after waking seems to "program" metabolism for either carb or fat burning, biasing it towards that substrate for the rest of the day.

 

PaleoFast:

If I could only eat one paleo meal per day, it would be breakfast.  (Whenever that is...often I don't have "breakfast" until lunch or dinnertime.)

 

Kurt:

Limiting all carb intake to one meal is "a different time of day" than eating it throughout the day.  And as I said, I suspect, based on the other evidence with which I'm familiar, that carbs only for dinner is much more effective than carbs only for breakfast.  But as I haven't seen any studies that measure it directly, I'm open to contrary opinions.

 

Miki Ben-Dor:

I'm honored.  Thank you!

If I were to put on my evo-bio speculation hat, I would speculate that since most carbohydrates in the Paleolithic came from tubers, they would have been gathered over the course of the day, brought back to camp, and (for the past couple hundred thousand years) cooked at the end of the day.  (Fruit is seasonal -- and as I point out in Part III, our ancestors lost their dental adaptation to frugivory way back in the early Pliocene.)

 

Fmgd:

As I said above to Asclepius, that's the explanation I favor.

 

Alexander:

Absolutely.  I'll be discussing hormonal effects on nutrient partitioning in future installments.

 

John, Thomas, eddie:

Suck it up, buttercup 😀

 

Trixie:

No.  Protein is highly satiating...and even if you do manage to eat a lot very quickly, converting to fat for storage involves several slow and inefficient metabolic pathways.

 

Ash:

That's an interesting thread.  The typical overfeeding studies involve a mixture of carbs and fat...I don't know of any that involved massive overfeeding on a ketogenic diet, and I've seen several anecdotal reports from people who find it nearly impossible to gain weight on pure keto.  I'm one of them.

 

Jamie G:

No, powdered protein isn't obesogenic.  And yes, consuming it immediately post-workout gives you maximum gains: there's a study on elderly men in which those that consumed protein immediately PWO gained muscle mass, whereas those who waited two hours gained no muscle mass at all.

 

eddie:

Thank you!  I'm wondering when the world at large will notice that I just destroyed the popular version of CICO.

(Note: I'm not holding my breath.)

 

Paul N:

Those are excellent observations.  Thank you.

 

PaleoFast:

Good point.  There are many things wrong with basing your diet on acellular carbohydrates.

 

neal:

Thanks for the plug!  Link me next time 😀

 

I'm caught up!  Thanks, everyone, for contributing.  Note that it will sometimes take me a while to respond to all my comments, so don't be discouraged if you don't hear back right away.

JS

May 21, 2013
9:20 am
Laura
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This is a great series, thanks JS! I like that carbs-at-night thing, I seem to be following a generally similar schedule just by listening to what my body wants from me. I usually have rice with dinner, and have just eggs, meat, and veggies during the day.

My stepmother is entralled with this nutritional shake program whose name I can't currently remember. They drink shakes twice a day, green glop, horrible bars, and everything. I wonder if those stupid shakes (originating as powder until you shake them....) have a similar obesogenic property. They lost some weight temporarily but I think it's not been maintained.

May 27, 2013
12:50 pm
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Laura:

That may be a contributing factor to the unsustainability of most nutritional shake programs, no matter how "nutritionally complete" they claim to be (isolated, purified ingredients do not contain the same nutrients as real food).

JS

June 3, 2013
9:00 am
Tatertot
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I know why powdered carbs lead to weight gain.

Akkermansia muciniphila

Look it up!

June 6, 2013
1:51 am
eddie watts
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Tatertot: that is interesting.
however the fundamental questions are unanswered
1 3-5% presence in the obese, is this the cause of or as a result of obesity

2 is it caused by the diet or something else (money on powdered carbs i bet)

3 will reintroducing it resolve obesity while they continue consuming powdered carbs or will they have to stop?

does look interesting though

June 8, 2013
10:39 am
Tatertot
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eddie - I think there is still much to learn about gut flora, and I don't think Akkermansia Mucinphila is the be-all, end-all to obesity, but it is clearly a huge clue.

I think the gut plays a much bigger role in overall health than we think. Providing an environment for gut flora to thrive is a good start for most. Easily done with pre- and pro-biotic food choices and supplements when necessary.

Studies on people and animals with absolutely no gut bacteria have been done. These folks can live and reproduce even, but they do anything but thrive. It's almost as bad as untreated HIV. The slightest infection will kill you.

June 10, 2013
1:59 am
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Tatertot:

There are a lot of causal links you'll have to show plausible mechanisms for before I'll believe that particular hypothesis. 

First, and most importantly, powdered carbs don't usually make it to the large intestine, so I don't see how Akkermansia can be much of a player.

I said all the way back in mid-2012, in this article: "Insulin, leptin, “food reward”, and the hypothalamus have all taken their turns: I predict gut flora will be the Next Big Thing."  Yes, it's important...but right now, blaming this particular result on Akkermansia is looking a lot like the Underpants Gnomes.

JS

June 10, 2013
5:54 am
WalterB
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Ah, wheat is normally eaten ground even whole wheat which may explain at least some of the increased morbidity of wheat eaters.

Another factor is xeno and phyto estrogens in foods and foodlike substances. Soy[2], hops[1] (consumed mainly in beer) and licorice contain abundance of phytoestrogens and we are all exposed to xenoestrogens which are not only in receipts, but probably in most processed foods.

It has been said that to sell a new food to poor people the best way to start is to sell it as a health food to the affluent and this worked wonders for soy foods.

[1] Brewer's droop is a common syndrome among brewers and bartenders. And some people think beer belly is mainly caused by the estrogenic effect of the hops in beer, rather than the carb load. Methinks there is a synergistic effect.
[2] Soy in large quantities should be considered medicinal, the joys of dosing yourself with phytoestrogens especially when you are overweight or trying for better athletic performance.

June 10, 2013
6:02 am
WalterB
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Besides the estrogenic elements in the environment what other chemical wonders are in our food today. Are there, for example, synthetic thyroid inhibitors?

Perhaps a millet cereal with hops added to hide the amount of HFCS and increase appetite could be developed. If it hasn't perhaps the industry does have some scruples.

June 11, 2013
10:51 am
Dave
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June 12, 2013
11:38 am
tatertot
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JS - LOL! Your 'Why are We Here?" blog is exactly why I am here! I loved it when you wrote it, made it my mantra, and had to chuckle when you threw it at me just now! Good job! Plus, I'm also a South Park fan--so double good job!

I hope you some day decide to go deep into the rabbit hole where gut microbes reside...I would love to see your unique take.

Not sure if you are a fan of Free The Animal, but Richard and I have been exploring gut health via a unique pathway--resistant starch. http://freetheanimal.com/2013/05/resistant-starch-4-letter-word-nope-goal-create-mashed-potatoes-a-diabetic-can-eat-every-day.html

Regarding Akkermansia as the solution to the calorie paradox, I was eluding to a general lack of Akkermansia as well as other beneficial gut microbes that are associated with good health and calorie partitioning. In the standard diet where lots of refined grains are consumed, there is a huge lack of fermentable fiber. Gut microbes don't get fed, pathogenic microbes rule the large intestine, leaky gut ensues. The beneficial microbes are hiding and biding their time until suitable substrate comes along to feed them--at that point they can divide and conquer.

The difference between a perfectly functioning gut and one with less-than-optimal gut microflora makes your 'calories are not created equal' statement stand out even further. If one has zero gut microbes, they will gain less weight on more food. Sounds great--let's all eat antibiotics! Not so great--as you already know.

The gist of what I have been doing to bolster my gut microbes to epic heights is to eat a pretty good paleo diet, one you'd be proud of anyway, and specifically target probiotics through kefir, yogurt and fermented veggies ALONG WITH prebiotic foods, such as soluble plant fiber (OS, FOS, GOS, Inulin, etc...)and resistant starch.

Foods alone, especially a grain and mostly legume-free diet leave a big gap in optimal prebiotic levels and obtainable prebiotic levels. I am shooting for about 50g/day of prebiotics, but can usually only get 15-20g. To overcome this, I have been eating 2-4TBS (20-40g)of raw, unmodified (native) potato starch per day, which contains 78% RS by weight. This easily puts me in the 50g/day range and I am being rewarded in multiple ways: better sleep, near perfect insulin sensitivity as determined by fasting and pp BG, and epic weight stability on a wide range of calories.

Anyway, you were right last year when you said 'Gut flora will be the next big thing'. I believe Richard Nickoley and I have cracked the code. To hell with fecal transplants and a vegan-load of veggies, target pre-biotics with a focus on RS rich foods and RS supplements when needed and your guts will treat you right!

June 20, 2013
4:18 am
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WalterB:

Excellent points about phytoestrogens.  Dr. BG talks about them often at Animal Pharm.

Fortunately I don't think we'll see millet cereal soon, except as a novelty in the "health food" aisle (a great place to stay away from if you want to stay healthy)...it's not (AFAIK) a subsidized crop in the USA, so it'll be a lot more expensive than corn or soy.

 

tatertot:

If you had opened with that essay, I'd have been much more cordial and less dismissive!  Yes, I've been following the RS saga on both sides...both yours and Richard's as well as pklopp's

My impatience stems from the gigantic amount of mainstream hype resistant starch receives vs. the fact that any whole food contains very little RS compared to straight-up carbohydrate and sugar...so anything but the Bob's Red Mill potato starch hack won't have any interesting effects beyond pushing lots of empty carb calories at people who can ill afford to eat them!

That being said, potato starch is indeed a very good prebiotic, I suspect it is indeed quite helpful for people with gut flora imbalances, and it's a very cheap experiment to try with few downsides (which should be immediately obvious if they hit you).  If it were being presented in this light instead as some "miracle carbohydrate" (it's not even a carbohydrate, really, since gut microbes digest it to SCFA), I'd have been a lot more supportive.

I do take exception to this: "Foods alone, especially a grain and mostly legume-free diet leave a big gap in optimal prebiotic levels"...was Paleolithic man deficient in prebiotics for millions of years?  It seems unlikely.  (It's much more reasonable to say that modern man is deficient in parasite infections...)

My current view is that it's more about the ratio than the absolute amount.  Since refined sugar wasn't on the Paleolithic menu (occasional honey was about it), the problem isn't in eating little soluble fiber: it's in eating lots of sugar and simple carbohydrates in the absence of soluble fiber.  (Possible results: SIBO and other gut dysbiosis.)  So if you're eating mostly meat, that's fine, because the bad bacteria aren't getting fed either...and whole fruit generally has plenty of soluble fiber to balance the sugar, so that's probably fine too.

Note that I'm not trying to chase you away!  My longevity in the community has come, in part, from my unwillingness to sell my readers anything I'm not sure of: instead, I prefer to wait until I understand how to integrate it into the greater framework.  For example, in my time, I've seen more than one guru and ex-guru go from "carbs are mostly evil" straight to "your thyroid will shrivel into a raisin if you don't eat more carbs", neither of which is correct. 

Meanwhile, I've stuck with the original PhD recommendation of 15-20% plus desire for glycolytic activity minus desire to shed fat, which seems to be optimal for most.

 

JS

August 8, 2013
10:00 am
Heather P.
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"That's an interesting thread. The typical overfeeding studies involve a mixture of carbs and fat…I don't know of any that involved massive overfeeding on a ketogenic diet, and I've seen several anecdotal reports from people who find it nearly impossible to gain weight on pure keto. I'm one of them."

I'm one, also. I had gone off plan and gained some fat. Went VLC and really bumped up the fat this time (Apparently I have issues with not getting enough fat during VLC - not a good thing because it intensifies the sugar cravings in this Reactive Hypo body!). Dropped 4lbs in three days eating mostly fat with decent protein. 116.4 to 112.6 (this is with cans of coconut milk, pints of local grass-fed cream, eggs with extra yolks floating in butter as they cook - butter goes with the eggs into the bowl. And of course, plenty of red meat. It took about a day and a half but ketosis kicked in hard!

I can't do carbs in the morning. I will suffer a HUGE RH! Oatmeal and an apple had me shaking like a leaf 90 minutes after eating. (This was when I was following the healthiest version of the SAD but still eating processed food products - I was losing weight, looking better on the outside but was getting sicker on the inside - it would have made me diabetic).

Thank you for the wonderful articles!

August 8, 2013
10:05 am
Heather P.
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And I've never been overweight - I came close once when I was almost 140lbs (5'2"). I starved myself down to 130 and ended up with Fibromyalgia. That was the start of my journey. Turned out to be a blessing.

September 12, 2013
1:57 am
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Heather:

You're welcome!

"I starved myself down to 130 and ended up with Fibromyalgia."

That can happen when you lose weight by restricting food intake, instead of by feeding your body what it needs.  Note that you're losing even more weight now...but you're not "starving"!

JS

November 14, 2013
3:18 pm
Eric
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In Spain, Special K cereal is marketed as a light, healthy, evening meal for women. I thought that was strange but maybe they are onto something with the carbs for dinner.

November 15, 2013
3:01 am
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Eric:

Not that I recommend eating cereal at any time, but if I were forced to, dinner would be more reasonable than breakfast...

JS

April 20, 2014
7:03 am
Lyle McDonald
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You are making the same incorrect assumption that most people make in this with your simple math in the front of the article: that maintenance is unchanging. It's not.

Hell, as people gain or lose weight, their maintenance changes which is why linear math to predict or estimate how many calories are required to gain or lose weight are always wrong. As someone gains weight, maintenance requirements go up.

In only looking at caloric intake over time since the 70's you're also ignoring the other big contributor: decreasing activity levels.

There are other factors and it's not that the energy balance equation doesn't hold: it's simply more complicated than most consider. But you're making the same mistakes above that most make.

http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/the-energy-balance-equation.html

April 20, 2014
11:58 am
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@Lyle doesn't metabolic rate vary over 24 hours (between the fed and unfed state, sleeping and awake, active and resting), nevermind day to day or week to week. So at what point do you declare the point of 'balance' a calorie-counter should seek to achieve?

September 11, 2014
11:59 am
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(My apologies for missing this: according to my calendar, I was in Vegas with my girl at the time, so at least I had a good reason!)

Lyle:

You'll note that, in the comments to the previous installment, we discuss that very article -- and the equation it contains -- at length! I'll reprint some of what I said here:

"Lyle's article and mine are making the same point, except on different levels. Lyle is enumerating all the “adjustments” one has to make when we treat food as comprised of “calories” (as measured by a bomb calorimeter), which include all those sciency-sounding acronyms like TEF, SPA, NEAT, etc."

Your point that maintenance is not constant is exactly the point of Thomas 2013, which I quote in the article for that very reason.

The sophisticated version of CICO, which I know you understand, boils down to "physics is true." The naive version of CICO, which is continually promulgated and popularly thought to be inviolate (e.g. the "3500-calorie rule") boils down to "weight gain or loss is a direct product of calories ingested, physical exercise, and nothing else."

My intention, in this series, is to show that the type, quality, and consumption pattern of food has a substantial impact on fat and muscle gain and loss -- far more than small perturbations in the number of "calories" consumed, which are not meaningful anyway due to measurement noise greatly exceeding the changes being measured. Here's the index to this series, which is ongoing.

(Every time I hear someone talking about "just eat one fewer slice of bread each day," I remember my physics teacher leaving red marks all over our papers when we incorrectly extended results to far more significant figures than the data contained!)

Asclepius:

That's amongst the many problems -- and why I advocate changing the type, quality, and consumption pattern of food (not to mention one's exercise modalities!) before attempting to count calories. As I see the evidence, calorie-counting is only useful once you've already converged to a particular set of foods (and activity patterns) and are just tweaking the amounts you consume. Otherwise, you're not just comparing apples to oranges -- you're comparing them to broccoli, eggs, and prime rib!

JS

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